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Dmitri Shostakovich Died 40 Years Ago

On 9 August, forty years ago, Dmitri Schostakovich died as a result of a heart attack. The final years of the great Russian composer were overshadowed by serious illness. In 1975 Shostakovich was admitted to a sanatorium; after a brief return to the dacha Shukovka, he was again taken to Kunzevo Hospital. Profound sympathy was expressed all over the world when he died on 9 August. Shostakovich was buried at the Novodevichi Monastery Cemetery in Moscow on 14 August 1975.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote the following on 11 August 1975: “Shostakovich, the most important Russian composer of our time, has passed away. (...) Only his closest confidants can know how much of the party rhetoric given by Shostakovich in recent years in ’Pravda’, and in speeches, was honest. There is much evidence to suggest that he found himself in an inner, unacknowledged exile from 1936 onwards.“

In its obituary of 11 August 1975, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called Shostakovich a “tragic genius“ and wrote “(...) Alongside Stravinsky, who never returned his enthusiasm, and Prokofiev, who was close to him as a musician and comrade in fate, Shostakovich’s is by far the greatest Russian musical personality of the century. His biography, when written one day by an uncensored future author (unlike Martynov and Rabinovich), will shed light on the cultural politics of Soviet Russia and probably also on the experiences that made the young, untroubled musician of 1930 into the hyper-nervous national artist of his later years.“

The contemporary composer and Shostakovich admirer Peter Ruzicka is also of the opinion that Shostakovich was a closed, often cutting and sharply reactive individual. “Shostakovich mustered the courage to continue on the path he had begun in the midst of Stalinist persecution.“


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